We signed up for the streaming-only version of Netflix shortly after setting up our home in Vegas. In the four or five months since, we’ve watched a ton of documentaries and some movies when we get the chance (which isn’t often, as we’re so damned busy).
The Female Half was working out on the treadmill at the gym the other day when she noticed that the plasma screen was showing an old Andy Griffith Show episode. She had her headphones on, but she could tell that something funny was going on… Howard Sprague (Mayberry’s county clerk, played by Jack Dodson) was doing standup comedy. She caught the second half of the episode.
Turns out that Netflix offers all its streaming customers every damn episode of The Andy Griffith Show ever aired. We found it rather quickly… first off, it was in color, so we worked backward from the newer episodes.
It was Episode 27, Season 07, “Howard The Comedian.” (And it turns out you can watch the entire episode on Youtube! See below.)
Howard tears up the room while emceeing a recent “lodge meeting” and becomes the toast of the town for his deadpan delivery of old jokes and other drollery. Eventually, he’s encouraged by others to pursue this comedy thing further… and Opie suggests that Howard might represent Mayberry by appearing on regional television show “Colonel Tim’s Talent Time” as a comedian.
Later on, Opie, in the county clerk’s office to pay his annual “bicycle license fee” (WTF?) sees Howard sweating over his upcoming TV spot and suggests that he personalize his material and twist the old jokes (from his “Jokes For All Occasions” book) to be about the colorful characters that inhabit his hometown of Mayberry. He enthusiastically embraces this approach.
This proves to be his undoing.
His customized jokes cause trouble. All the subjects of his gentle ribbing– Goober, Aunt Bee, Miss Clara Edmonds, Floyd the Barber– take offense at being held up to ridicule. All except for Sheriff Andy Taylor.
When Howard triumphantly returns to Mayberry, he’s stunned to find that he’s shunned by all. Andy is puzzled by the reaction and their lack of a sense of humor. Howard is sickened by it and regretful.
The big twist is that all the subjects of his gibes quickly drop their objections when they become nearly as famous as Howard himself.
They then refuse to accept Howard’s apology and disingenuously insist that he honor his commitment to a second appearance on “Talent Time”– never explaining the reason for their change of heart. Indeed, they dream up all sorts of excuses while studiously avoiding the truth.
Not a fine moment for the citizens of Mayberry.
We were expecting to see the comedian shamed and humbled. Instead, we’re treated to rather shallow behavior by the comedian’s friends. Quite a different treatment of a situation that’s been dealt with on countless sitcoms through the past few decades. Maybe the reason that everything turned in favor of the comedian in this case is that the episode aired in 1967 and the star of the show was a comedian himself (as was executive producer Danny Thomas).
At the end, Andy can’t really explain to Opie exactly why everyone’s attitude changed so abruptly. He tries to couch it in terms of ego and pride, but he abandons the attempt.
And we suppose it would be hard to explain. The episode says far more about the audience members than about the comic.
It is also notable because it depicts a comedian in semi-rural North Carolina in 1967. He wows the lodge meeting by telling old jokes, he instantly garners the admiration of his friends for his bravado performance and he is immediately encouraged to pursue further opportunities– says Goober, “There’s no limit to how far a good comedian can go!” And he preps for his upcoming television debut by poring over a compendium of old jokes.
Strangely enough, in the next episode, he is depicted in a brief scene at the opening as working for Chuck Johnson! (Just how old is Chuck Johnson, anyway? We kid because we LOVE! If you object, we’ll change it to Tom Sobell!)
We incorrectly referred to Howie Mandel’s latest project as being based on a Dutch televisions how. We were mistaken. It’s a Danish television show. One of our astute readers (see comments) from Holland (and we’re sure we’re using that term wrong) told us he’d never heard of Celebrity Standup. We also forgot to link the description of the show. It’s from Hollywood Reporter.
* * * * *
Ever since NBC failed to bring back Last Comic Standing, the only chance for comedians to gain network primetime exposure (while actually doing standup) is via America’s Got Talent. The talent contest showcases two or three comics each season. (But there is a downside: Simpleton “judge” Piers Morgan goes into his “I don’t get it” act after each comic’s performance and says dumb and mean shit and expresses annoyance and befuddlement.)
One of the other judges on that show, Howie Mandel, is heading up a group that will attempt to develop a Dutch television show for American primetime television. When it aired overseas, it was called Celebrity Standup. From Hollywood Reporter:
The show’s concept has celebrities revealing personal stories about their lives, which, over five days, they develop into a stand-up act. The VIPs then battle each other on stage in front of a live audience, who vote on who to send to the next round.
Great. So, instead of showing actual, competent, professional comedians doing standup, Mandel will present, in a reality show format, a bunch of B- and C-list “celebrities” demonstrating just how difficult standup comedy is.
Here’s what we can hope: The professional dancers on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” come across as looking really likeable, professional and entertaining (while their celebrity dance partners often appear clumsy and awkward). So maybe the American version of Mandel’s show will afford similar exposure to a gang of likeable and professional comics coaching the celebrity wannabes. It ain’t much, but it’s something.
Or… the clubs will be clogged with celebrities who have been christened “real” comedians by virtue of having done a handful of two-minute sets on a reality show without falling face-down in a puddle of perspiration.
Worse yet, the biggest of the trainwrecks might embark on a nationwide tours (a la Charlie Sheen). We can see it now: Newly-retired NFL star survives three weeks on Celebrity Standup– exhibiting ghastly timing while mangling jokes written for him by Conan staffers– eventually announces a 24-city arena tour. It can happen.
We fear it will be less like “Dancing With…” and more like “Skating With The Stars.” Lots of wobbly performances, lots of “injuries,” lots of wincing.
We were home for about nine hours total– between returning from a cruise on the Gulf of Mexico and heading out across the Mojave Desert for Los Angeles– so we were somewhat exhausted when we arrived in Redondo Beach on Friday afternoon.
The Male Half was scheduled for shows at the Comedy & Magic Club one town over, in Hermosa Beach, as part of that club’s monthlong birthday celebration.
As usual, the crowds were delirious and the lineup was befitting that august Southern California institution: Jimmy Brogan, Jim McDonald, Wil Anderson, Taylor Williamson, Diane Nichols, Jeff Dye, Ritch Shydner, Matt Fulchiron, Quinn Dahle, Ty Barnett, Daniel Tosh, Crystela Alonzo, Noe Rodriguez, J. Chris Newberg, Clinton Jackson, Greg Hahn, Laurie Kilmartin, Edwin San Juan, Angelo Tsarouchas, Alan Havey, Tommy Johnagin, Dennis Regan, Jim Edwards, on three shows over the course of two nights. If we left anyone out we apologize!
After the Saturday shows, we chugged down the Pacific Coast Highway and caught the last few minutes of Vinnie Coppola, as he closed out a show at Gaetano’s Restaurant. (It was a benefit for a movie– this is Hollywood, remember– called “Death To Cupid,” and we got to hang out with director Joe Gonzalez.) We also caught up on the past couple years with Coppola and with FOS/comedian Dave Smith, who we know from our days at a certain club in Atlanta. Smith and Coppola made the move west about 2-1/2 years ago.
In conclusion: Happy birthday, Comedy & Magic! AND: Comics and fans alike should check out one or two of the Twenty Hot Comics shows they’re putting on this birthday celebration month, every Friday and Saturday in July! The shows are fast-paced and oodles of talent populate each and every one (see list above)!
We visited Las Vegas last September to “observe” the World Series of Comedy, a six-day affair at the Alexis Park Hotel, dreamed up by comedian/producer/impresario Joe Lowers. We posted about it here and here, where we recapped the affair:
It’s generally agreed that the whole WSOC was a success and a lot of folks– talent and bookers alike– are hoping it repeats again next year. There’s some tweaking that needs to be done, but nothing major needs to change. There was surprisingly little bitching or strife when you consider that 101 comics went up, in a contest, over six days. No controversy– to our knowledge– and few if any regrets on the part of those who participated but did not win. This might be because, after elimination, the contestants found themselves in Las Vegas! It’s the ultimate place to grieve, to assess, to drown any sorrows. And– big bonus– eliminated contestants were still able to avail themselves of the other offerings– headshot session for thirty bucks, meet and greet with industry bookers/club owners, poker tourney, golf outing, etc. Though the main attraction may have been the contest, the overall feel was that of a convention. And many of the comics took full advantage of the gathering to network, to party, and to bond. It might be argued that upping the convention-type features might be a wise idea.
The winner was Andrew Norelli, who, since his success at the WSOC has appeared on late-night television and copped coveted headline spots at the Hilton in Vegas and at Comedy & Magic in Hermosa Beach. Cause and effect? You decide!
We mention it right here, right now, because it’s coming up again! Time flies like an arrow! Fruit flies like a banana! (Groucho Marx?)
Lowers has been augmenting this year’s WSOC with “satellite” competitions in various markets like Wichita, Raleigh and Scottsdale. But the big magilla will take place (as it did last year) this September (19 through 24) at the Alexis Park.
We had a blast at last year’s WSOC. But this year, we’re particularly enthusiastic because Vegas is now our home. Not quite sure how that works, but we’re excited.
Deadline for registration is approaching, and details for registration can be found here. The impressive list of clubs offering work to the winner(s) is currently at 39, but the website claims to be “working on 50 weeks.” And this year, one of the clubs is Jongleurs in England!
It’s been gone for four decades (as of last month). So the number of current, practicing comedians who received their first exposure to standup via The Ed Sullivan Show is understandably dwindling. It lives on via DVD’s and other media, but it’s impact was greatest when kids sat down in the living room– often with Mom, Dad and maybe even Grandma and Grandpa– and watched Myron Cohen or Alan King or George Carlin or Richard Pryor or Joan Rivers and secretly vowed, “THAT looks like something I’d like to do.”
Gerald Nachman has a piece in today’s L.A. Times about the show. And it’s shot through with references to comedians.
Few then had heard of — not to mention ever seen — Carol Burnett, the Supremes, Nat King Cole, Stiller & Meara, Jackie Mason, Eartha Kitt, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Phyllis Diller, Shelley Berman, Shecky Greene, Teresa Brewer, George Carlin, Keely Smith, Myron Cohen, Patti Page, et al. — when Sullivan escorted them into our homes on his national stage. His eclectic taste and a lust for the family audience inspired him to trot out acrobats, elephant acts, ventriloquists, along with the regulation comics and singers — plus, and perhaps most rarefied of all, little-known black performers.
Read the whole thing. Nachman is the author of, among other books, the seriously awesome “Seriously Funny,” an account of the cadre of comics who came up in the late-50s/early 60s and influenced our lives and the popular culture. And they nearly all owe a debt of gratitude to Ed Sullivan.
Did you Louis CK on Kimmel last night? He was talking about how, as a father, he constantly finds it necessary (and somewhat entertaining) to explain things to his daughters. He draws on his experience as an adult to explain the complex and the mundane. (As Kimmel characterized it, a parent is essentially his/her child’s “tour guide for life.”)
We’re piecing this together from memory. We recall that CK then goes on to say that he was driving around with his daughters and they spotted a cruise ship. He explained what a cruise ship was and he also added that comedians perform on cruise ships. When his daughter asked if her daddy performed on cruise ships, he said no. She asked why? It sounded so exciting, after all.
He then addressed that matter of why he (and so many other comedians) avoid performing on cruises. He explained that comedians have a “mean hatred” of comedians who perform on cruises. “We call them ‘boat acts,’” he said. He added that the cruise ship circuit is filled with comedians who “want to please everybody,” and that he wasn’t into “pandering.”
At this the daughter was puzzled. She asked, “Why wouldn’t you want to please everybody?” CK replied that, when he performs, he often upsets the people in the audience. The daughter then asked, “Why would you want to do that?”
CK was bemused. Kimmel was quite amused and said that it seemed that, in her naivete, the daughter was offering “clarity.”
The only reason we bring all this up is because we happened upon the interview quite by accident– we were scrolling through the channels on the television… in our cabin on a cruise ship. We’re performing on the MS Ecstasy this week.
A few years ago, such an exchange might have made us feel bad about ourselves. We might have taken umbrage at the characterization of comedians who work cruise ships as “boat acts” and the charge that they “pander” in their attempt to be all things to all people. But CK’s rant (if you can call it that) was funny, and his points were somewhat valid and he spoke some truth. But we couldn’t really work ourselves up over it.
Since we’ve plunged into the cruise ship milieu in the past six months (and since we started preparing for it in way back in July or so), we’ve gained some perspective.
It made us laugh.
We had been discussing these very issues with a group of comedians not 72 hours earlier.
We could go on to defend cruise ship comedians and say that there are actually a lot of great, honest, creative comedians who do cruise ships “under the radar” (out of necessity, for fear of being labeled a “boat act”). We could say that doing cruise ships has made us better comedians because it’s forced us to write and break in more material (both clean and dirty)– in a very short period of time. And that such an accelerated program has sharpened our skills and made us more versatile. We could also say that there are plenty of comics– in both the club scene, the alt scene and in college gigs– who pander like crazy in their attempt not so much to be please everybody but to survive and make a living. And we could also point out that “being all things to all people” presents its ownsignificant, unique challenges. (Trying to please a broad range of people or a diverse demographic doesn’t automatically lead to blandness or a lack of originality. Ask Brian Regan.)
To be sure, there is some justification in calling some cruise ship comics “boat acts.” (Stereotypes are often stereotypes for a reason.) But that is tailing off as more and more 20- and 25-year comics– many of whom have a more modern sensibility and perhaps a different work ethic– enter the sector. So we could present a fairly good argument against it.
But we realize that, as long as this meme persists, we’ll benefit personally. As long as the rumor exists, it will limit the number of comics who attempt to work on the ocean and will therefore limit the competition. More work for us!
We are sooo over caring about being labeled. What our fellow comics think of our approach to performing is none of our business.
And now, we shall shut the door behind us or, more appropriately, we shall draw up the gangplank. No more cruise talk, ever again. (Unless something funny or weird happens.)
Posted from poolside at No Name Sports Bar at the Barracuda Hotel in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s currently 79 degrees with overcast skies and winds out of the east at 20 mph.
From comedian Jim McCue‘s blog comes a report on an incident at (most likely, since the blog’s URL contains the words “in Tahoe”) the Improv at Harrah’s in South Lake Tahoe.
Bobby Slayton (“The Pit Bull of Comedy”) is onstage headlining and feature act McCue and the host (someone named “Howie”) are backstage in “a club that will remain nameless,” when some sort of ruckus occurs in the showroom…
Howie and I walked out and found an irate gay/Mexican guy… He was very upset and yelling that he was going to call G.L.A.A.D. and, after what happened with Tracey Morgan, he would get Bobby fired. Then, another woman came out. She’s angry about the show, but says to the first guy, “I’m not sure I approve of what you did in there [apparently he got on stage and went into a tirade], but I’m from San Francisco and we don’t condone gay bashing”.
You can tell where this is going. Slayton is “pulled from the remainder of the shows,” and according to the post’s headline, “suspended with pay.” McCue is bumped up to headliner.
H/T to Aaron Ward.
ADDENDUM: Here’s an interesting oldie from 2006. Sadly, there’s more where that came from. Just insert “political correctness” (with the quotes) into the Google search bar at the top of our center column.
All right. So… Vancouver loses in the Stanley Cup Finals to Boston. In Vancouver. So the Vancouver fans go nuts and tear the place apart and turn over BMW’s and set stuff on fire.
The video goes viral. As do the pictures. One pic in particular– it depicts, in the background, a bunch of “revelers’ retreating away from the photographer and, in the foreground, an out-of-focus, riot-gear-clad cop or two. And in the middleground is a couple– a guy and a girl– embracing in the middle of the street, and he’s planting a kiss on her.
Bruins fans? No. Just a couple, caught in the mayhem. And he’s trying to protect her and shield her from the broken glass and the rocks whizzing buy. And, to reassure her, he kisses her. And it’s caught on a chip and uploaded and it rockets around the planet and it makes the couple a worldwide sensation– particularly after they’re identified.
Australian Scott Jones and his girlfriend Canadian Alexandra Thomas are now “vacationing in California,” but they’ve hired Max Markson, spokesman for the Australian public relations giant Markson Sparks.
Here’s where it gets… interesting… or nauseating, if you prefer:
Markson Sparks will represent them and handle requests for interviews, endorsements and job opportunities for Jones, who’s an actor and standup comedian.
“I think for Scott it’s a tremendous opportunity for him to springboard his acting and standup comedy,’’ says Markson, who added that the couple is heading to Melbourne, Australia for a while, after California.
Jones, 29, who had one standup comedy gig in Vancouver before the famous photo was snapped but mostly worked as a bartender there, “could use this as a way of breaking through for a standup comedy career,’’ says Markson. “It could set him up for life, if he’s as good as Robin Williams or Bill Cosby.
Ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be boarding the helicopter soon to venture to the top of that really big “if” that Mr. Markson has set up in that last sentence. If all goes well, we should reach the top of the “if” in about a half-hour or so. Please be patient.
Are there hundreds of bartenders in Australia who are as good as Robin Williams or Bill Cosby, but are simply waiting for accidental, international fame so they can “springboard” their standup talents?
Is this what people think goes on? People do one gig and they emerge fully-formed as the next Robin Williams?
We shouldn’t be surprised. We were standing in line at the deli on a cruise ship recently when the nice man in front of us recognized us as two of the ship’s entertainers and engaged us in conversation. Upon learning that we were the comedians, he asked us what we did during the day. We were momentarily confused– does he mean, “What do you do to kill time?” or does he mean, “Do you have a day job?” He meant neither. He was curious as to what we did during the day, on the ship, when we weren’t performing… he asked, “Do you clean or something?” Clean? Here was a man– from all indications, a reasonably intelligent man– who thought that part of our duties as fly-on entertainers on a major cruise line was to clean.
It is this lack of knowledge that Markson is hoping to capitalize on. (We don’t believe for one minute that Markson himself believes what he’s saying.)
Slate ran an interview with Louis CK on June 17 in which CK defends Tracy Morgan.
There’s a lot of times when I let myself channel bad ideas as a way to do comedy. I think it’s something that’s a healthy thing to do, honestly. And I think the person who really fucked people up and hurt people with Tracy’s words was whoever took it out of that Nashville club and put it on the national stage— whoever called Huffington Post or whoever started this shit, and said, “Guess what Tracy Morgan said,” and announced it to the rest of the world. He wasn’t trying to say it to the rest of the world. So when I read stuff like, How are gay people going to feel when they read this? Well they didn’t have to read it! They weren’t part of that show. Maybe there were gay people there who were laughing. You don’t fucking know. Nobody gets to say that they represent anybody and they’re offended on behalf of the whole world.
You can see this shit really bothers me. I didn’t carefully inspect what he said. I heard some of it, and it made me laugh. I didn’t get the context, but I have to defend it, because if I was in his role, if I was in his situation, which I might be someday—which I already am for having said something on his behalf—I would want someone to step forward and say something. This is a freedom that I live off of. I think, whatever, if Tracy made a mistake, he certainly didn’t deserve all of this. And I don’t know him well, but he’s a good guy. So I’m using that judgment, of just, hey, I met him and he’s a good guy. And I get a sense of him as a father, and there’s no way he would stab his kid.
It’s a dumb thing to take at face value. You’d have to be a moron. And if you do, you are not allowed to laugh at any more jokes. You are not allowed to laugh at any jokes that have any violence or negative feelings attached to them, ironically or otherwise. I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy in that. If anybody thinks that what he said is true and there’s no comedy in it, don’t come to my shows. I’ve said to many audiences that I think you shouldn’t rape someone unless you have a good reason, like you want to fuck them and they won’t let you. That’s worse than what he said! And I didn’t wink and say, just kidding. I just said it.
And there’s another article, this time in the Atlantic, by a senior editor, Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which he quotes from the same Slate interview then proceeds to dissect the matter and offer many of the same points that others have made on the issue. It’s rather murky, but Coates provides a clip or two of Louis CK’s act, then tries (we think) to differentiate between Morgan and CK.
One of the commenters on this magazine opined that Louis CK’s material possibly wouldn’t be subject to criticism or persecution like Morgan was “because of the caliber of the usage and the thought that went into it, its purpose.” Well, buckle up, buttercup, and get an eyeful of the comments that follow Coates’ “defense” of Morgan. There were 345 at last count and the commenters– surprise!– say a lot of the same things about humor, about jokes, about boundaries, that were said about the Morgan incident… only this time, it’s about Louis CK.
The mob is rather like the gang that’s camped outside of, say, Frankenstein’s house with pitchforks and torches and someone runs up and yells, “HEY! Over here! There’s a werewolf!” and they all set off in that direction with their pitchforks and torches.
Like we said, if you think Louis CK or any other respected comedian is immune, because the “caliber of the usage” or the “thought” or the “purpose” that goes into the material, you are wrong. And if you think you’re immune, you’re wrong, too.
Adam Gropman was, for longer than anyone else, one of our columnists here at SHECKYmagazine.com, back when we had columnists.
We just got this note from him:
I am finally doing my one man show about upbringing with “hippie adjacent” parents and being sent to scary extreme summer camp at age 9 and hating it, here in LA- as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. Show is called GET ME OUT OF HERE! and is this thurs and sun june 23rd & 26th.
We’ll miss it by just a week! We just read all about Gropman’s one-man show, and it sounds like a hoot.
…in a bid to “toughen him up”, Adam’s parents sent the nine year old Adam to the most rugged, stripped-down, back-to-nature camp in all of New England, for two months. Luckily, they also saved a shoe box full of the letters sent back and forth that summer between the somewhat precocious and extremely foul-mouthed Adam and the astoundingly zen, placid-toned Mr. & Mrs. Gropman, and this correspondence forms a powerful backbone to the show.
A short, 8-10 minute version of “Get Me Out of Here” (called “Unhappy Camper”) was presented a while back as part of a larger show and was a smashing success. If you’re in Los Angeles this week, check it out!
After our posting on the Jo Koy incident (scroll down to “The Possible Return of Charlie McCarthyism”), we received a flurry of hate mail. A lot of snark and not a lot of illumination. When the vitriol comes in piles like that– and when we’re as busy as we are– it’s tough to dissect the various lame-o arguments and highlight the illogic, outline the hypocrisy and defend our position. And quite often the folks who attack our posting obviously haven’t read any of our many posts on similar incidents that touched on related issues of free expression. It’s a bit frustrating.
We’ve said it, and said it again. So our desire to reiterate it one more time is zero.
It’s interesting how some of our critics are trying to lump us in with the alleged homophobes. We defend free speech and free expression and we’re called names and it’s suggested/hinted/implied that we are filled with hate. Not sure how that works.
A couple of comics were coerced into apologizing for remarks made onstage. We are of the opinion that such a trend is bad for standup. We made what we believe are pretty good arguments supporting that opinion and we express a fear that such incidents might have a deleterious effect on standup in ways that we can’t really quantify or qualify. But we believe they’re real and possible.
We end with a quote from that great legal scholar and champion of free expression, Vince Vaughn, who issued what the entertainment media and others called a “non-apology” when the trailer for his movie “The Dilemma” contained an alleged homophobic line.
“Let me add my voice of support to the people outraged by the bullying and persecution of people for their differences, whatever those differences may be. Comedy and joking about our differences breaks tension and brings us together. Drawing divided lines over what we can and cannot joke about does exactly that; it divides us. Most importantly, where does it stop.”
An article from last week, on the Atlantic website, entitled “In Cambodia, Comedians Double as Government Propagandists,” tells the story of Krem and a gaggle of other Cambodian comedians who are members of the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit, an autonomous section within the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. They also share membership in the “Propaganda and Education Commission” which is made up of “152 performers and artists, including the bulk of the country’s comedians.” It’s not all the comedians– just most of them– who carry their leader Hun Sen’s message to the people via television, radio and live performances.
…this kind of politicized comedy is shown on all of the country’s eight television stations — performed by comedians who, frequently, are also paid members of Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit. Many of the comedians bear the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel.
The country’s dozens of “colonel comedians” underscore the extent to which Hun Sen and his CPP have consolidated power over the past two decades, successfully marginalizing not just rival politicians but also dissenting artistic and cultural voices.
“It is further evidence of the deep reach of Hun Sen’s personal networks of loyalties, and the growing difficulty of doing opposition politics in Cambodia,” said Duncan McCargo, a professor of Southeast Asian politics at the University of Leeds.
Atlantic finesses the situation by sayin that opposition to Hun Sen has been “consolidated”. (Translation: Hun Sen is systematically eliminating opposition by jailing journalists, opposition members of Parliament, lawyers and “government critics.” The leader of Funcinpec, the only serious opposition part, fled and is in exile in Paris after being sentenced to jail.) Perhaps we can’t blame the author, Julia Wallace, as she is living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.
Wallace tells of another comedian named “Koy” (not to be confused with Jo Koy):
Koy, the stage name of Colonel Chuong Chy, a doughy, thick-featured man, is also active on behalf of the government. Of the four men in the comedy troupe that Koy leads, three of them — including Kren, a popular comedian with dwarfism — belong to the Prime Minister Bodyguard Unit. The fourth is an officer in the 70th Infantry Brigade of the Cambodian army, which is also closely linked to the premier and has been accused of human rights abuses.
Like Krem, Koy joined the bodyguards in the 1980s, starting out as a captain and rising to colonel two years ago in a mass promotion of entertainers. In person, he is terse and severe, rarely cracking a smile. Although he openly describes the work he does as propaganda, he insists his troupe writes all its own skits with no government input.
“We just tell people how good [Hun Sen] is, how he constructed the country, how many buildings he builds,” Koy told me backstage after one of his performances, fiddling irritably with the keys to his Lexus. “Nobody tells us what to say. We just describe what we have seen- — roads, schools, irrigation — and make it a little bit funny.”
A decade ago, when Funcinpec was a more serious contender for power, it had its own comedian-affiliates. But as the party has dwindled over the past few years, its comedians have all defected to the CPP.
The best known of them, Lorcy, struggled for years to find work after campaigning for Funcinpec during the 2003 election season. He claimed he had been blacklisted from the airwaves and feared for his life. In 2009, he defected from Funcinpec and published an open letter of apology to Hun Sen through General Bunheang. His career immediately picked up. Krem invited him to join his troupe for a guest appearance, and now Lorcy regularly performs on two government-affiliated stations. On April 1, he became a lieutenant colonel in the bodyguard unit.
“I was really regretful of my mistake, which was why I apologized for forgiveness…”
Were this kind of situation to exist in America, we wonder: Would you be in jail for cracking wise about the oppressive regime? Or would you be the comedian who flees to Australia, telling jokes about the awful conditions in your native land? Or would you be the comedian with the Lexus?
It’s another in a series! (It all started with Dwight Slade Ham and continued with Todd Paul Ogata.) We must be ever on our toes for the next “mash-up!”
Vancouver journo, FOS and Frequent Commenter Guy MacPherson was in town for a few days to take in some shows, write some reviews and conduct some interviews (he interrogated The Male Half at Hooters last Wednesday). He curates “The Comedy Couch– Your Guide to the Comedy Scene in Vancouver and Beyond.” (CORRECTION: The Comedy Couch is curated by Raegan Birch, whom MacPherson calls, “a true friend of comedy.”) Check out his podcast– he interviews everybody. (And you can read a transcript of a recent telephone interview with Tracy Morgan here.)
That’s Jack Benny on the left and George Burns on the right. It’s from the Riviera’s collection of 60′s and 70′s portraits and candids adorning the wall outside the Crazy Girls showroom. That George Burns was a snappy dresser.
From the free legal encyclopedia Jrank.com, is this paragraph, from their summary of Lenny Bruce’s Café au Go Go obscenity prosecution (“the most controversial obscenity trial in American history”):
Herbert S. Rune, an inspector with the NYC Department of Licenses, was the final witness called to testify. He had watched Bruce perform, jotting down surreptitious notes. Over defense objections, he read out an edited version of Bruce’s act that highlighted the language used and virtually ignored the context. Worst of all was Rune’s assertion, bitterly denied by the defense, that Bruce had fondled the microphone in an obvious and suggestive manner.
These days, we don’t worry about such things as licensing inspectors or cops with brush cuts and shiny shoes sitting in the darkness at the back of the room. No, these days, we’re enlightened. Lenny Bruce’s world had angry and disgusted judges who gladly heard obscenity or drug cases, eager D.A.’s who sought to make their reputations by hounding high-profile comics and musicians, vindictive bureaucrats who granted or withheld cabaret licenses.
We’re so glad that’s not going on any more.
What we have nowadays is perhaps worse, in some ways. Take the case of Jo Koy.
Huffingtonpost.com is gleefully reporting on the latest comedian who has been forced to issue an apology for something he said onstage, during the course of a June 15 comedy performance– Jo Koy. During a recent performance in Chicago, Koy called someone in the audience a “fucking faggot.”
Someone else in the audience dutifully reported the incident to the Windy City times– which subsequently reported that Koy let loose with an “an anti-gay rant.” The show was at the Vic Theatre and was part of the Just For Laughs Festival. So we figure it was JFL who squeezed Koy’s testicles to produce the lightning-fast mea culpa.
Instead of an intricate chain of D.A.’s and judges and cops and inspectors conspiring to wipe out obscenity while burnishing their credentials or solidifying their re-election or fulfilling their duties as good little bureaucrats, we have citizen crusaders who take the airtight case directly to the court of public opinion.
Instead of cops wearing wiretaps or a former CIA agent in attendance or an awkward cop in the back of the house scribbling notes– which are then read back in open court, void of all context– we have eager busybodies with cellphones and Facebook blogs and Twitter accounts who dutifully report the egregious offenses of this comedian or that.
In this case, the comedian doesn’t even have the benefit of a trial or witnesses or an arraignment or a plea. In the court of public opinion, the comedian is guilty until proven guilty. The apology follows quickly and the “jury” decides exactly what the punishment will be.
Koy no doubt thought he had a pass by virtue of his frequent appearances on gay-friendly Chelsea Handler‘s late-night talk show. Turns out obtaining this pass is trickier than anyone can imagine.
We’ve been warning folks about such persecution for quite some time now. For years. Way back when, we told folks that they had better not throw Larry the Cable Guy under the bus. Initially, it might be white males with southern accents who are sacrificed to the PC gods, but we cautioned that they were just getting warmed up. (“They” being any group who feels aggrieved and who has the juice and the knowhow to whip the MSM into a righteous, anti-comedian frenzy. It might be a group that insists on spelling “womyn” with a “y,” or it might be the League of United Latin American Citizens or it might be GLAAD.)
Eventually, they got around to Sarah Silverman, then they set their sights on other trophies. When will it stop? It won’t.
And all along, fellow comedians insist on taking the side of the prosecution, perhaps hoping that such a show will immunize them against any future actions. It won’t.
Perhaps comedians should print out a formal apology, laminate it, keep it in a jacket pocket or in the wallet and whip it out when something is said onstage that might anger any professional grievance mongers. Reading it immediately after any possibly offensive statement might short-circuit the cyber kangaroo court and nip the whole “controversy” in the bud.
We might also suggest purchasing a digital recorder that slips easily into a pocket– the VN-7000 goes for $40 at Staples. Maybe a Flip camera, too. Paranoia? Not at all. The best offense is a good defense. If nothing else, the beleaguered comic can provide the context that never seems to survive these witch hunts.
Often the comedians who dare to appear on NBC’s America’s Got Talent are met almost immediately with boos. There’s something very Showtime at the Apollo about the crowds they recruit for AGT. They have a hair-trigger and they’re demonstrative– especially when it comes to comics.
Geechy Guy, however, handled the situation smartly– first, by stressing the world record holder joke-telling thing and second, by steamrolling the audience. On Joke Number Two, he stepped on the audience’s (positive) reaction and made it quite clear that he was not interested in basking in their approval but was instead intent on banging out a lot of jokes in a short time and that they had better catch up.
The result is predictable:
Piers Morgan is a world-class idiot. (We came to this conclusion after watching Piers Morgan Tonight– the only show that can make one nostalgic for Larry King.) Try to imagine his utterances without the British accent. Not only is he utterly lacking in brains, but he seems to have a curious blank spot where any normal person has a sense of humor. “I didn’t find you remotely funny…” says Morgan, after Geechy Guy’s hysterical barrage of one-liners. Not even remotely? He should donate his brain to science.
Full disclosure: The Male Half regularly performs on Geechy Guy’s “Dirty Joke Show” at the Iowa Theater for the Performing Arts at Hooters Casino Hotel here in Vegas. The show, produced by Geechy Guy, features him and a rotating cast of two other comedians telling dozens of old jokes (or “street jokes”) in a back-alley setting. The pretense being that the audience is witnessing three comedians sitting just outside a fictional comedy club’s stagedoor, shooting the breeze and entertaining each other by telling the jokes that have amused them over the years. Great fun for the audience and, says the Male Half, great fun for the performers as well.
The Male Half got a nice hit in the local paper. (The local paper, in this case, is the Las Vegas Review-Journal.) It’s a nice article by Corey Levitan that contains mini-profiles of The Male Half and four other Vegas-based comics who “haven’t yet turned the corner to fame.”
Geechy Guy, Ron Shock, Matt Markman and Rob Sherwood are the others in the quintet.
You can read it for yourself (and see the sweet picture of TMHOTS!) by Googling “lvrj mckim” (without the quotes, of course).
It’s a very nice thing to get such a high-profile (front page of the arts and leisure section, above the fold, color pic) hit just 122 days after hitting town.
And normally we’d link to it, maybe even run the pic and an excerpt from the copy, but we’re dealing with the Stephens Media-owned Las Vegas Review-Journal. And they employ a company whose sole purpose is to harass blogs and other websites for copyright infringement. (We’ve posted about this in the past.)
The deal is, if you link to a piece (or excerpt from a piece) in one of the publications that this company is acting on behalf of, you open yourself up to ruinous litigation. Thus the rather ungainly Googling advised above.
(There is hope. A judge here in Nevada has ruled that the company “has made multiple inaccurate and likely dishonest statements to the court” and that they must “show cause, in writing, no later than two weeks from the date of this order, why it should not be sanctioned for this flagrant misrepresentation to the court.” Pretty strong language from the man with the gavel. We can link to that article without fear. Some law bloggers are speculating that it could be the end of the company. Others have even speculated that it could signal the end of the aforementioned Stephens Media!)
Tracy Morgan told a bunch of jokes at an appearance in Nashville, at the Ryman.
From what we can tell, it was just Tracy being Tracy. (Which is more outrageous than nearly anyone else out there by a factor of about 12.)
Of course, it all would have passed without a media firestorm had not someone named Kevin Rogers posted a lengthy rant– complete with quotes– on his Facebook page, which was then picked up by (near as we can tell) Huffington Post.
Rogers didn’t record the performance. (If he did, he doesn’t say.) But it seems that the media has taken the HuffPo account (which is based on Rogers’ account) and run with it.
Then Wanda Sykes (going by what she read in the HuffPo) took to the Twittersphere to condemn Morgan.
We wearily take to the keyboard to defend Morgan. It is truly eye-glazing to behold yet another “controversy” involving the “outrageous” and “hate-filled” comments of a comedian. The stories follow a similar pattern– comedian makes outrageous comments onstage (how odd!), professional grievance group files complaint through the media, comedian attracts defenders and detractors, detractors demand apology from comedian while simultaneously bullying supporters into retracting support, comedian issues apology, professional grievance group designs additional penance involving some sort of cash settlement combined with public humiliation/symbolic gesture, comedian is given permission to continue plying his trade, pundits use the incident to make larger points about society, all is forgotten until the next comedian steps on some sort of grievance land mine.
In this case, the supporters were CNN correspondent and syndicated columnist Roland Martin and fellow comedian Chris Rock, who tweeted, “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in (a) world where Tracy Morgan can’t say foul inappropriate s**t .”
We’re inclined to agree with Rock. Sykes wasn’t so inclined.
Rock, after a Tweet-lashing from Sykes, back-pedaled.
Martin has doubled down. His follow-up (after he received a blizzard of hate mail for his original column) column contains a reasoned discussion of the matter.
Of course, Morgan has issued a “heartfelt” apology. It is, as are most of these apologies, worthless.
Sykes has likened Morgan’s jokes to “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” She seems particularly peeved that Morgan did the bit in Tennessee. And, of course, you know what that means– Tennesseeans, even ones who pay $86 to see a black man perform in Nashville’s country music shrine, are racist knuckle-dragging cretins too stupid to move out of a state that has passed an “anti-gay bill” (HuffPo’s characterization, not ours). This entire incident looks to be centered on a beef that GLAAD and other affiliated groups have with Tennessee over HB 600, which was signed into law on Monday, May 23.
Morgan is a political football. We have no doubt he was doing the same “rant” in every city he performs in. His grave mistake was doing it in a politically-charged atmosphere.
We defended Sykes when she was labeled a “lazy racist” by an imbecilic columnist for a Tiger Woods joke she told in a television monologue. We’re a bit taken aback at her bullying of Morgan and Rock, though. She seems to have put politics and group identity ahead of free expression and art in this case. Particularly appalling is Rock’s reversal.
The mangling of Oliver Wendell Holmes’ quote aside, Sykes’ analogy is seriously flawed. No person can believe that anyone would commit a violent act based on the lunatic ramblings of Tracy Morgan. Not a serious one.
Sykes’ quote, from a quote in a publication called “The New Civil Rights Movement,” gives away the game:
Sykes said, “I do believe in free speech, but for a youth in TN or any other numerous place, Tracy just yelled, ‘Fire,’ in a crowded theater,” adding, “Morgan “is just a dumb comic,” but also said she faults Tennessee lawmakers. “They’ve created an anti-gay environment,” and suggested she didn’t “believe Tracy would be so ignorant in LA, because we have a mayor, a city council,and police chief who believes we are all equal.”
Morgan is “just a dumb comic,” therefore, he is a tool, to be used. Under the bus he goes. It’s a small price to pay for the cause.
We are reminded of the Doomsday Clock created by the boys at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “The closer the clock is to midnight, the closer the world is estimated to be to global disaster. As of January 14, 2010 (2010 -01-14), the Doomsday Clock now stands at six minutes to midnight.” Every time some rogue nation acquires nukes, the clock ticks closer to midnight. Were we less busy, we’d create a similar, vivid analogous doomsday clock that estimated our slide toward disaster in matters of free expression. The clock just got closer to midnight.
FOS Bonnie McFarlane anchors a new web-based video series (or a “web series pilot”) for comedy website Cringehumor.com called W5 (for “Who, what, when, where, why”). It features McFarlane interviewing comedians on camera at “various comedy related events.”
McFarlane is also prepping her documentary “Women Aren’t Funny” for release. We saw rushes early on in the process. (We were also interviewed for the doc last year.)
CORRECTION: We hasten to add that the film was co-created by both McFarlane and Vos. And the film is produced by Vos. You’d think we’d be more careful about this kind of thing, being a husband and wife team that often collaborates. We were in Walmart buying ricotta cheese when we got a phone call from Vos clarifying the film credit. But he doesn’t want it to sound like he’s a dick. Which is unusual… because, normally, he doesn’t care if he sounds like a dick.
And we recently viewed a small chunk of the near-finished product on an IPad when hubby Rich Vos was in Vegas gigging at the Palms.
The genesis for the film was a particularly controversial column that McFarlane wrote for SHECKYmagazine.com (way back when this site had columnists). The column, entitled “Women Aren’t Funny,” was, for the longest while, one of our most heavily-downloaded files. (And it was high up in the search engines until Christopher Hitchens wrote a Vanity Fair piece entitled “Why Women Aren’t Funny!”)
McFarlane’s piece was satirical. We’re not so sure about the Hitchens piece. We are certain, however, that the controversy from both pieces will be dwarfed by that of McFarlane’s movie.
We admire Patrick Milligan, the motivator at CringeHumor.com. And we agree with him far more often than we disagree.
He’s expanding his site’s influence with the above mentioned W5 project and with other video ventures.
He also interviews comics and uploads them under the title of Cringe Humor Comics To Watch (CHCTW). He did one recently with Vos.
It’s an interview that lasts only 10:30. Milligan describes it thusly: “This edition of CHCTW asks Vos what’s in store for his future, and quickly turns into one of the most depressing episodes yet.”
Oh? Vos is his usual wiseass self, but he is also introspective (perhaps surprisingly to folks who don’t know him). We think it’s a thoughtful interview that offers not just insight into Vos but into almost any veteran comic.
Depressing? Perhaps the only depressing part of the interview is tired cliché that is trotted out at the end of the interview.
At the 9:15 mark or so, Vos gets at one of the fundamental truths about standup:
Vos: It’s so hard to be content as a comic. When is a comic content? When?…When is anybody content doing this? I would think that in other businesses people are content. I don’t know. An artist? I don’t think an artist is ever content.”
It’s a startling moment. But then the interviewer chimes in with:
“It seems like anybody in the entertainment business never retires; they just keep craving that attention.”
Attention? Did he not hear Vos? The discussion is not about narcissism or megalomania or attention– it’s about art. And knowing when to be satisfied with one’s art. Or maybe wondering if one should even be content with one’s art. (Or, to extrapolate: Whether or not this constant discontent is what separates an artist from a hack.)
Vos has just displayed some vulnerability and introspection and the conclusion is that people in the entertainment business (and, we assume, Vos) can’t stop doing what they do because they crave attention. WTF?
Milligan carefully curates a site about “honest” comedians who speak “truth.” But he has one in his midst who gives about as honest an interview as we’ve seen in some time and we’re told it’s “depressing” and that we’re all attention whores.
We don’t normally comment on other blogs, but we were struck by the dissonance.
If a guy like Milligan– who respects comics and spends a lot of time trying to understand them– clings so tenaciously (or automatically, or reflexively) to such simplistic truisms, what hope do comedians have that we’ll ever be understood?
He’s right: It is a depressing interview. But for far different reasons than he cites.
We find the following at the tail end of the Zach Galifianakis mini-interview in the NYPost:
He also worries he’ll get soft if he doesn’t get on stage in front of a live audience more often.
“As a comedian to have that recognition almost is anti-comedy to me,” he says. “We’re not supposed to be the ones who get that kind of attention, so I’m a little bit sensitive about it. I don’t want to soil what brought me there in the first place.”
Good for him. And good for comedy club audiences who come to see him.
We’re hearing stories for the last year or two about celebrities and/or “celebrity comedians” who hit the circuit when they’re less than prepared. We’re puzzled when we hear tales of these luminaries apologizing from stage (“I don’t do it as often as I should.” or “This is a lot harder than I thought!”) or reading from scripts or “working out material” on a Saturday night in front of a packed house… often with less than spectacular results.
We’ve always said that “stunt bookings” are okay… but not if the oddity doesn’t deliver. We’ve suggested that these celebs might do better to drop down to host or emcee and bring on a trio of professional comics who know what they’re doing– a win/win! The audience gets to see the celeb AND they see real comedy, not some sorry, fumbling trainwreck.
Club owners will think nothing of bringing in a faux comedian with little more than freak show appeal who tanks from Thursday through Sunday. Or they’ll bring in a Big Name who engages in all manner of anti-social (or illegal or quirky or annoying) behavior and who pitches one shutout after another. But it’s all smiles as long as the turnstiles are spinning. (They’ll subsequently bring in a solid, veteran comedian– with perhaps little or no drawing power but who delivers nonetheless– and freak the fuck out when that act has one show out of seven that is less than wonderful.)
Is there a great, lasting benefit (aside from the receipts and drink sales, of course) to bringing in a huge name that ultimately pisses off a significant chunk of the crowd? Especially considering that the marquee name brings in first-time customers?
And, conversely, is there much damage if a no-name comic happens to have one bad show out of seven? (Especially considering that the no-name comic demands one-tenth or one-twentieth the salary of the celeb who is dabbling in standup.)
Perhaps the folks who come in and see the celebrity (who subsequently engages in a legendary week of comedy meltdown) ultimately think poorly of the celebrity but don’t hold the club responsible … and the folks who see the bad show from the unknown hold it against the club and let the comedian off the hook. In that case, there’s absolutely no downside to bringing in the risky, demanding nutjob who causes a lot more headscratching than belly laughs. (Or we’ve just given club owners a brand new excuse for engaging in ever more “creative” booking!)
Earlier today, Ted Alexandro hipped all his Facebook friends to the article in COED Magazine entitled “The 24 Most Underrated Stand Up Comedians,” so we had to scurry on over and check it out. Here’s the nutshell, the elevator pitch, the first paragraph, the setup, from authoer Igor Derysh:
The best comedians aren’t necessarily the ones that get all the movie roles, have sold out comedy tours or guest star on the most popular TV shows. In fact, some of the best comedians have been touring the minor circuit: comedy clubs and colleges, perfecting their craft for decades. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, they just haven’t been able to get that one big break. Sure, some of them may have their own hour-long stand-up specials, and have appeared all over Comedy Central, but you’re not going to see one of these guys starring in a hit movie any time soon. COED’s giving credit where credit is due in our list of the most underrated comedians.
Where do we begin?
We could go on and on, but maybe our whole problem with the article is the use of the word “underrated.” It’s a pointless word– and even more worthless concept– that is used mostly among sports geeks. And we can understand its use among sports fans. After all, athletes are often rated. Their performance is ranked, their statistics are compiled and examined and analyzed and twisted this way and that. Even athletes who are a decade or more past their playing days are considered in the millions of discussions that take place in sports bars, dorm rooms, broadcast booths and radio talk shows. The idea that a baseball player or a long-distance runner might be considered by some folks to be less than fully appreciated is fun or entertaining to kick around.
But when talking about standup comics it’s a pointless exercise. After all, who rates comics? (Mind you, we’re not complaining. We often say that standup comedy has dodged a bullet by not having a comedy reviewer at every major daily. We’re fairly sure that comedy hasn’t suffered for lack of a regular ranking system or an annual awards ceremony.)
Of course, there are some interesting measurements out there (“metrics” is what the wonks like to call them) that offer some clues as to who is capturing the public’s fancy comedy-wise. Forbes (the biweekly magazine that covers business) comes out with an occasional list of the top-grossing comedians. The iTunes site ranks comedians according to how many times their work has been downloaded. Youtube.com includes the number of downloads of each clip that a comedian (or a well-meaning fan) uploads to the video-sharing site. If you’re lucky enough to have access to Pollstar magazine, you can see actual dollar figures for tours of some of the top comedians.
With all that, though, there are still people who insist on “rating” comedians. And, sadly, there will be editors and writers who take the lazy road and create “list” articles like the one linked above that seek to gather all the “underrated” comedians into one lengthy piece that alternately praises the comedian chosen for the list and bemoans the vague, unnamed forces that “prevent him from breaking into the mainstream.”
And there’s another term that gives us pause: “mainstream” Isn’t being featured on Comedy Central the very essence of mainstream? Exactly what are the criteria for becoming mainstream? Is it, like the author says, “starring in a hit movie?”
We’re just somewhat dismayed that the author seems to think that these fine comedians– from Demetri Martin to Mike Birbiglia to Bill Burr to Patrice O’Neal and on and on– are being portrayed as being failures. Martin, for instance, has had a stint as “a writer for Conan O’Brien a few years ago, a few appearances on The Daily Show, his own stand-up special and a starring role in the indie hit Taking Woodstock,” yet seems to think that Martin has every reason to mope.
We look at the list (and we look at their list of accomplishments) and we see resumes that are (or should be) the envy of every comedian who hasn’t yet achieved what they have.
And it is more than ironic that a publication that is named “Coed” couldn’t find at least one female comic to include. (We’re not into affirmative action, but the lack of a funny woman in the list– especially considering the inclusion of two deceased comics!– is just a bit insulting. Couldn’t they have thrown the women a bone (or a boner, maybe) or two?
(Note: We don’t think that Hicks or Giraldo maybe should have been included on a different list. We mean them no disrespect, we just think that their presence on this list is somewhat incongruous.)
After all the swirling controversy of the last couple weeks, we decided to post something warm and fuzzy. We have noticed that some club owners have been talking warmly about Groupon lately. About how it’s helping to fill up their clubs, how it’s helping to sell drinks, how it’s helping to get the word out about their presence. So far, we haven’t heard anyone talk about a downside.
Groupon, in case it hasn’t been covered by the Sub-Igneous Times, is a super-duper free online service that gets folks to sign up, then sends them a daily Groupon coupon notice. Subscribers then have the option of ignoring it or purchasing it. Sometimes it will be a $32 oil change for $14, or a $45 one-hour foot massage for $12. Or sometimes it will be half-off admission for two people to a comedy club. Those who take advantage print out their authorization, then take it with them (with I.D.) to redeem their coupon at the designated venue, massage parlor, garden center.
Occasionally (it’s up to the business offering the discount), the Groupon offer will have a tipping point built in– so that the Groupon will only be valid if a certain benchmark is reached, i.e, a certain number of people sign up for the offer. Ingenious, really, as it depends on social forces to muster a critical mass. In case you’re wondering, Groupon is successful. At least some folks think it is or might be. (There was talk late last year of Groupon being purchased for $6 billion!)
The subscribers sign up for a local region– When we lived in South Jersey, for instance, we signed up for the Philly-area Groupon. We now receive notifications of Vegas-area Groupon offers.
We are impressed that some club owners are taking advantage of this social media/coupon hybrid. So often, they opt for the Business-Card-In-A-Fishbowl method of papering the house. Groupon is right in their wheelhouse since it’s easy, it takes hardly any energy and it doesn’t cost anything. (If you think that we’re implying that club owners are often dull, lazy and cheap, well, that would be your interpretation!) And technically, it’s not “papering the house,” since the merchant actually gets some cash for each admission.
Papering the house has gotten a bad rep over the years. But, we spoke to one club manager/owner a few years back who said, “There’s a wrong way and a right way to paper the house.” We honestly believed him. And we worked in one his clubs for a week and the shows (and the crowds) were spectacular, so if that house was papered, we say, “Spread your house-papering gospel!” So many times we’ve seen club managers take tried and true methods and apply them in ham-handed or half-hearted ways. And we’ve seen too many clubs employ “new” methods without really understanding those methods. They proudly implement sparkly, new marketing techniques– while failing to grasp exactly what it is they’re doing– expecting the technology to do all the work. They are disappointed when the result is less than optimum. Of course, they blame the technology.
One thing that separates this from outright giveways, like we mentioned early, is that the customer actually has to part with some dough. So he’s invested in the performance and he’s not just a slug who dropped his biz card in a bowl and got a phone call on a Thursday afternoon. He isn’t just some chump who got a “special offer” email that entitles him to free admission next Wednesday. He and/or his fellow Grouponers got that txt message or that email, considered the deal, crunched the numbers and bought the ticket. It’s a tremendous way to reach people who might not have been aware of the venue or might not have considered being a part of a comedy audience otherwise.
It’s just one more way the internet is changing standup comedy. If there’s a hard and fast, quantifiable downside, we’d like to hear about it.
We took down a posting. We got tired of having our inbox clogged with comments. And having to administer the comments.
We have our WordPress dashboard configured so that we either have to approve, deny, edit, trash or label each comment spam. It’s extra work, but it’s our preferred way of doing things. The alternative is to allow comments from anyone who wants to. This opens up the comments to advertisements or vicious personal attacks or self-promotion or all manner of worthless, boring stuff.
One thing folks lose sight of is that this website is not a “forum” or a “chat room” or a “bulletin board.” It’s our website, our blog. We could, if we wanted to, disallow comments totally. (Preemptive strike: I you’re firing up the keyboard to crank out some sort of 1,200-word opus on just how “ironic” or “hypocritical” that is in light of our defense of free speech, you can save yourself the trouble. It is neither hypocritical nor ironic– not even using the loose, Alanis Morissette criteria that Ed Byrne so definitively skewered a while back.)
We aren’t obligated to run each and every comment. Especially when some comments are rambling or somewhat incoherent or boring or slightly off the topic or containing insults to us personally. Or followed up by emails that say, basically, “Fuck you.” Or augmented by disgruntled posts on our Facebook page!
We often tell people that this magazine is a “dictatorship.” We follow that up with the (only slightly) tongue-in-cheek advice to “start your own blog” if you’re not totally pleased with what’s transpiring on this one. That’s the beauty of the WWW. There’s plenty of real estate out there and the barriers to entry are astonishingly low.
After a while, it gets tiresome re-stating and re-re-stating our position. And it’s especially frustrating when our original position gets twisted, or folks read into a posting what clearly isn’t there. There are only so many hours in the day and, in case our readers have forgotten, we’re real, working comics who… work. And, in addition to curating this magazine and the comments thereon, we have other projects that require our attention.
We’re not saying that we’re shutting off all future comments. But we are saying that we’re shutting it down on this particular controversy, at least for the time being. Unless something new happens, we’ve said all we’re going to say about it.
We called a comic here or there a “nitwit” or an “alleged comedian.” We referred to some of their quotes in the press as “claptrap” or “profound ignorance” or “gross stupidity.” We avoided generalizations. We tried to keep our analysis as intelligent as we could. We were often passionate. We referenced Louis Brandeis, Friedrich Niemoller, the Canadian Charter and Ezra Levant, but we were assailed as “childish bullies” and told to calm down, wait, “come back in a year and let’s see what happened.” After THREE YEARS of this nonsense. So, you might be able to see why we felt a little bit like Kevin McCarthy in the final scene from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
And our talents as comedians and writers were called into question by more than one commenter. Not sure why, as we were careful to keep our criticism focused on the issue at hand– that of free speech.
We’re somewhat taken aback at the thin skin of some of our comedy colleagues. Comic after comic (on both sides of the border) effortlessly heaped insult after insult on Guy Earle. And questioned his credentials. And called him the worst thing you could call a comedian– “unfunny.” For those same comics to take umbrage at the relatively mild criticism we offered (which was, we point out, not focused on their relative talents but on their lack of critical thinking and commentary on the issue of free speech) is breathtaking.
But when we commented on the whole sorry situation, the response was not to debate the specific issue but to defend Canada or question our credentials or tell us to “STAY IN JERSEY FAGGOTS.” When we tried to re-focus the debate on the larger issue of free expression, many comments swerved back into the minutiae of the Tribunal or tedious nonsense about “hate speech” or needless assaults on Guy Earle… and on us.
Throughout the past three years of this trainwreck, reading comprehension on the part of some of the commenters has been dismal. (One reader even thought that we flew to Vancouver to cover the Tribunal!)
We’re shutting the debate down for now– at least on this site.
In the month of April, we had exactly six nights off. On our only days off, we were busy tying up the loose ends on our book. And we flew to Houston and back for an eleven-day road trip in the middle of the month. We enumerate these items not to garner sympathy but to demonstrate that the magazine is but one of our projects and that, in the interest of managing our time, we often are forced to allocate resources elsewhere.
Three weeks ago, UConn Professor Benjamin Purzycki began a lecture by discussing the cultural relevance of the “N-word,” setting off a chain of events that resulted in the poor sap having to sit through “diversity training.” The sorry incident is notable here only because Purzycki tried to use standup to get his point across. A student, Ozzie Gooding, took offense. The rest of the story would be hysterical if it weren’t so tragic.
First, Purzycki told a story of how back in the day, one of his African-American coworkers used to call him the n-word. He said that his friend used the word as a term of endearment, even though he himself is white. Purzycki then displayed various instances of when the N-word is used and readily accepted in the media. The samples that he used included posters with the N-word superimposed above the images of Richard Pryor and the Pope. Finally, Purzycki played an uncensored clip from Chris Rock‘s expletive-ridden skit “N***** vs. Black People.”
Ozzie Gooding, a 6th-semester exploratory major, is one of the few African American students in Purzycki’s class. He said that he felt the professor’s presentation was unprofessional ,and that he was close to walking out of the lecture. But instead of making a scene, Gooding decided to take action later on.
How utterly brave of Mr. Gooding. Instead of challenging his professor, he skitters around campus, from office to office, from cowardly bureaucrat to cowardly bureaucrat, until, finally, he finds an operative who “takes him seriously.”
Political correctness is a joke. But not to all. To some people, political correctness is a dearly held concept and a weapon that is, unfortunately, still rather effective. We expect such nonsense like that detailed above to happen on a college campus. So many campuses these days (or so many departments within our campuses) are populated by insubstantial people who lack conviction.
And the children they are charged with educating often turn out like Mr. Gooding.
He is particularly sensitive to the N-word and believes that no one should use it. He also said that the lecture was painful because it was presented in a comedic way that made many of the students in the class laugh. “It’s hard enough being a minority in class and on campus,” Gooding said, “so if you’re gonna talk about race, be serious about it.”
We’d like to remind our readers that this all took place in America. A “college-educated” person thinks that no one should be allowed to use a word that he doesn’t like. And he wasn’t told to take a hike. He was instead, accommodated.
In the comments under the article, he says, “Showing the Chris Rock comedy skit, and the other racially offensive things is totally inappropriate, racism is not a joke.”
This time from Mark Steyn, himself a target of the “human rights” regime.
There is a word for a judge who tries and convicts a man without testimony or representation or a jury of his peers. I mean, aside from words like “dick”, “ass” and “cunt”, all of which one might apply to “Judge” Geiger-Adams. That word is sham. As with any show trial in any nickel-and-dime banana-republic presidency-for-life, the outward forms of “justice” are deployed for a precise inversion of it. That’s wretched enough when it happens in North Korea or the Soviet Union. When a jurisdiction that’s heir to one of the oldest sustained legal inheritances on the planet decides to dump due process, it’s even more shameful.
We couldn’t agree with him more.
To be sure, Steyn makes a few wince-inducing comments (generalities, really) about standup comics and standup in general, but we can understand how it might appear to Steyn that the vast majority of the comedy community is against Guy Earle (and, by extension, tacitly supporting the BCHRC’s “assault on one of the most basic principles of justice”). We, too, were appalled at the lack of support or the tepid– and ultimately worthless– support Earle did receive. And we were gratified when a handful came out and offered a strong and eloquent defense for Earle (and condemnation of the BCHRC) in our comments. (And we were also pleased to see blogger/author/radio host Kathy Shaidle weigh in after linking to us.)
It’s worth it to read the entire essay.
Are you selling CD’s or DVD’s after your show? Are you limited to taking cash only? Or do you occasionally rely on the kind hearts of the venue to facilitate one or two credit card purchase? (And occasionally give up 10 or 15 per cent to the comedy club manager pirates who let you use their credit card machine for verification?)
Say goodbye to all that! Hook up with Squareup.com and cheerfully accept all major credit cards from those comedy club patrons eager to take home an audio/visual souvenir from your killer appearance!
We read about this ingenious little device (and it’s futuristic, WWW-based system) when we were flying back from a gig in January. We had fully intended to hip our readers to it, but a lot of stuff got in the way– moving to Vegas, writing a book, etc.
Then we ran into Jimmy Shubert at the Fryers Club meeting at the Alexis Park the other night and he had one in his pocket. His enthusiastic proselytizing convinced us that it is the real deal! He pulled out the tiny square device, popped it into the top of his smart phone and nutshelled it for us like the wimpy article in the Southwest Airlines mag just couldn’t. (They emphasized lending money to deadbeat friends. What year is this, 1959? Is the author of the piece a fan of The Ritz Brothers or Gasoline Alley?)
Sign up for an account. They send you the little white doo-hickey–For free! Pop it into the top of your Droid, iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and swipe that grinning customer’s credit card and– automatically and cleanly and neatly– their card is charged with a pre-determined amount of money. They need only sign on your touch screen to approve the transaction!
We knew it would be awesome, but, after seeing it (and having Shubert breathlessly pitch it), it’s Awesome Squared!
Hop onto Squareup.com to sign up. We just did. Our free card reader will arrive in just 2 to 5 days, says their website.
When we last checked in on Guy Earle, the comedian who was hauled before the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal for an incident at a Vancouver open mike night, he was living in Nova Scotia with his wife and new baby. And he was determined to salvage something out of the whole ordeal– “to show the Supreme Court that there exists a conflict between the HRT code and the Canadian Charter of Freedom.”
We mistakenly believed the matter to be settled.
This morning, however, our readers sent along some links to various articles that told of Earle being ordered to fork over the equivalent of $15,745 US to the aggrieved party.
From the Vancouver Sun’s Business section:
Stand-up comedian Guy Earl was ordered to pay the money to Lorna Pardy, 32, while the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal also ordered the Vancouver restaurant owner, Salam Ishmail, to pay her $7,500.
The cash, said tribunal member Murray Geiger-Adams, was for “lost wages and for injury to dignity, feelings and self respect.”
Finding sensible comment on the incident is an exceedingly difficult task. One opinion, from an alleged comedian and “political activist” named Charles Demers, seems, at the outset, to be on the mark:
“This ruling is going to have an impact on professional comics who are now going to have a harder time starting up in new venues,” Demers said.
“They’re going to have a harder time getting restaurants and bars to start up comedy nights because now [the restaurants and bars are] going to be worried that they’re on the hook.”
Gee, do ya think? But then Demers veers into gross stupidity when he adds that, while this might raise free speech issues as they relate to comedy and while the cash settlement might curtail any adventurous open mike nights, he is, he says
“as much invested in the fight against homophobia as in the fight for comedy,” and wouldn’t want to align himself with someone making hateful, homophobic comments.
Similar claptrap is offered by “Vancouver-based comedian and promoter” Donovan Mahoney who says “Mean spirited stuff, I’ve seen people do it and I kind of cringe, because in my mind, comedy is very smart. A good comic is smart.”
The quotes from “comedic performer” Ruven Klausner tower over the others for their clarity and their blessed lack of P.C. back-pedaling and qualification. Earle didn’t violate anyone’s human rights, says Klausner.
“He might have violated her sense of entertainment, but we all have to endure that sometimes when we go to comedy shows,” Klausner said with a laugh.
Then the commentary lurches back into profound ignorance.
Gregg Scott, who did standup for several years, said it seemed Earle’s biggest mistake was that he wasn’t funny.
Congratulations, Vancouver (and Canadian) comedians. You now have a set of rules when you mount the stage. And here’s the best part: You have no idea what they might be.
When you defend free speech you gotta go big or go home. If you cede any sort of victory (no matter how tiny) to the weasels who seek to curtail your speech, you have lost. If you walk away from a fight like this one saying, as Gregg Scott does, “there still are a number of approaches to take before slandering — [such as] being funny,” then you have handed the folks on the other side of the issue a huge victory. Because there is no way to objectively determine “what is funny.”
Therefore… anyone who mounts the stage is subject to this mushy criteria. And is therefore subject to prosecution/persecution.
It is absolutely essential to fight and scrape for every inch of territory surrounding that stage (and the speech that emanates from it) and declare it free from any actions by the state. Not only is it free speech, it’s speech in the name of art.
These nitwits (the ones who seek to differentiate themselves from Guy Earle… we’re looking at you, Gregg Scott and Charles Demers) mistakenly believe that by throwing Guy Earle under the bus, they’ve created some sort of firewall that will save them should they offend the wrong person.
Aside from the obvious chilling effect among entrepreneurs– what venue owner in his right mind would now risk $7,500 to put on an open mike?– there is the very real free speech issue.
And the performers, proprietors and others who do anything– ANYTHING– less than offer an unqualified defense of Earle’s (and anyone else who delivers speech in a comedy show format) is actually doing the bidding of these bureacrats.
What will you do when that Muslim/Christian/Canadian bit of yours– the one that perfectly fits the neat criteria of Messrs. Donovan and Scott above– is adjudged to be “vulgar” and also is deemed by one patron or another to have “attacked (insert plaintiff’s name here)’s identity and dignity as a Muslim/Christian/Canadian and a man?”
You will probably wished that you had fought more vigorously for Mr. Earle’s rights because his rights are yours as well.
_ _ _ _ _
FB pal Brian Scolaro posted the video below in his status update and urged folks to “SHOW SUPPORT FOR THIS COMEDIAN HOWEVER YOU CAN.”
The interviewer, Ezra Levant, was harassed by an entirely different “Human Rights Commission” for publishing the famous Muhammed cartoons in his publication, the Western Standard.
A reader writes:
What about a section… a toolbox if you will… for beginning stand-up comics such as myself? Maybe Q/A with professional comics to help in guiding the evolution of comedy? It could even develop into mentorships and eventually opportunities that could transform into established careers later down the road.
An excellent suggestion, reader! But… since we started pounding out this crazy website 12 years ago, we have studiously avoided giving advice to young ‘uns. We took a different approach– and that approach has changed over the years– of interviewing experienced comics and letting the beginners infer from the interviewee’s answers various nuggets of information and multiple strategies and tactics. Then we evolved into posting about stories about standup that we found on the internet and letting the aspiring comic take from that knowledge about the industry and about standup’s place in the pop culture. And occasionally, we’d post about events (like the Just For Laughs festival) and we’d afford the newbie an unprecedented window into an extremely important comedy biz ritual. And all along the way, we’ve taken to grousing about our own situations, or exalting about our minor triumphs here and there, or relating our occasional epiphanies, and letting our readers tell us exactly where we had our heads firmly planted. We’ve tried to challenge prevalent assumptions (or the so-called Conventional Wisdom) and invited our readers to draw their own conclusions.
We’ve always known that the opportunity has always been out there for someone else to fill the niche you speak of. But we preferred to tap the resource that was experienced comedian. Not only did they have a lot of knowledge and perspective, but the ones we chose to talk about were frequently engaged in a career change or a lefthand turn. They may have been in the biz for a while, but they were willing to apply their skills and knowledge to some quirky venture or some exploration of a newly discovered skill set.
We’re not surprised at all that our book (due out Oct. 1 and now available on Amazon.com for pre-order!) turned out to be an extremely laid-back affair that urged readers to find their own way. We encourage the aspiring comic to take in advice and data and information, and craft his/her very own path to comedy competence and fulfillment. While we may be opinionated, we are always careful not to push a comic too hard in one direction or another, lest we inadvertently deprive the comedy world of an innovator. And the same goes for the magazine.
We liken our magazine to an evening spent in a booth at a diner, eavesdropping (or sitting very quietly) while the headliner and the feature acts talk, celebrate and commiserate. As newcomers, we experienced quite a few nights like that… and we found them to be profoundly satisfying. The information we absorbed on those sessions was invaluable. They were like a wormhole, a shortcut; and way more efficient and gritty than a seminar or a comedy class (although some of those have their good points). Of course, later on, we found some of the information to be suspect. But figuring out who is credible and who isn’t is all part of the process, too.
And, of course, there’s the very practical matter of man-hours. Putting together such a “toolbox” is a nightmarish task and one that we don’t have the energy or the inclination to undertake. And those mentorships you allude to are happening all the time without our help and without the use of such fancy technology as the WWW or Facebook.
Your suggestions are appreciated. And we invite you to swim around in the deep, dark recesses of our site, especially the early days from 1999 to 2004 (much of which can only be accessed via the Wayback Machine!) and we are sure you’ll find plenty of ” professional comics… guiding the evolution of comedy.”
The audiences at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the Trop got a lot of bang for their buck last night– Jimmy JJ Walker, Traci Skene, Geechy Guy, headliner Mike Loftus and “Welldone Comic” Bobby Henline.
Henline was unique among the comedians onboard as he is the only one of them who has been burned over 35 per cent of his body.
From the Dec. 26, 2009 NPR piece on Henline:
A roadside bomb hit the Army convoy truck Henline was driving in Iraq nearly three years ago. He spent months recovering inside the burn unit at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and went through dozens of surgeries. During the most difficult days of his recovery, he tried to maintain his sense of humor, telling jokes to his doctors and therapists.
Henline is a super nice guy. The waitstaff bought him a honkin’ sheetcake that said, “Thanks for serving our country!” There were a lot military (active and former) in the house. Facebook Henline to keep track of his upcoming appearances. Or, better yet, go to BobbyHenline.com!
The Male Half is doing a feature spot at the club tonight, second show.
Yesterday (April 8) was Shecky Greene’s birthday. He turned 85! Just one week ago, he celebrated by doing a three-show weekend at the South Point Casino here in Vegas.
There are people– even some in the business– who don’t know who he is. Time for a chunk of his Wikipedia entry:
His first gig in Las Vegas was in 1953. Fred Sheldon Greenfield (he finally made the legal name change to Shecky Greene in 2004) grew up on the north side of Chicago, served in the Navy during World War II and enrolled at a junior college to become a gym teacher, but he also picked up spare money by playing resorts and small clubs around the upper Midwest. He quit school after he got a call to fill in for two weeks at the Prevue Lounge in New Orleans and stayed six years, until it burned down. From there he went on to showrooms in Miami, Chicago and Reno/Lake Tahoe before an agent persuaded him to move to Las Vegas and open for Dorothy Shay, “the Park Avenue Hillbillie,” at the Last Frontier. His act was held over for 18 weeks, a first for the Strip.
The rest is comedy/entertainment history. And he’s still making more.
Sunday night, we hopped in the SHECKYwagon and turned on the Bruce Woodbury Beltway for the 14-minute jaunt to the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa to see the third and final evening of a three-night engagement of the legendary Shecky Greene.
We saw Shecky perform back in May of ’09 at the Suncoast Casino. Here’s how we described that set:
The set was tremendous– a stream-of-consciousness combination of reminiscences, songs, impressions, story-telling, Yiddish, dialects, messing with the boys in the band and messing with the audience. He would leave a story at one point if it intersected with another (or if he happened to deem a second third or fourth story more worth pursuing at the moment), sometimes returning to the original thread, sometimes not. A few old jokes were thrown in, too. At times it was old school, at other times, it was contemporary.
And this set was just as tremendous. This time around he invoked Kathy Griffin, the Kardashians and Biggest Loser among other pop culture icons. He also called out frequently to his buddy in the audience– Steve Lawrence! (Who shared a banquette with his lovely and talented spouse, Eydie Gorme!)
Ya gotta love Vegas! You go to see Shecky Greene and Steve & Eydie are in the house! (Lawrence came up onstage and helped wheel a cake onstage– as it was not only a show, but a celebration of Greene’s upcoming 85th birthday– and sang a song as well!)
If there was any difference between this set and the one we saw 18 months ago, it might be that Greene seemed a bit wistful. The jokes about retiring or “never working again” were, as always sprinkled throughout the set, but this time they had a bit of a serious undertone. Three-quarters of the way through the performance, we began to believe him.
Perhaps it’s because this engagement nearly coincided with his upcoming birthday (April 8).
Whatever is going on, we hope we didn’t see his final show. (Of course, who wouldn’t want to be present for such an historic occasion, but the man is a tremendous comedian. And notice we didn’t append that with “…for a man his age.” He commands the room, he displays multiple talents, he is a one-of-a-kind. And it is quite obvious that he absolutely loves doing standup.
And his impression of Buddy Hackett is hilarious!
Happy Birthday, Shecky Greene! And hope we see you perform next year!
… we were unnerved.
Charlie Sheen kicked off his tour this evening.
When USAToday’s allegedly live tweeting of the Charlie Sheen opening night abruptly ceased just before the show was to begin, we sensed something was amiss.
And further inspection of some status updates on Facebook led us to conclude that something had gone terribly wrong with the “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option” tour.
Facebook, Entertainment Weekly and even the New York Times blog is now abuzz with blow-by-blow accounts of the disaster that is the Charlie Sheen “standup” tour.
From EW’s InsideTV, at 10:03 local time:
The show is now an unmitigated disaster. People are leaving early. Attendee Chris Acchione, a self-described Sheen fan who traveled all the way from Toronto for the show, says his entire row walked out early. “He’s making a fool of himself,” he says. “Is there a bigger loser in the world? He’ll be [begging] Chuck Lorre for his job back by the end of the week.”
Scroll up and there’s an entry at 8:03:
The comedian has been literally booed off the stage.
Most outraged Facebook accounts of the conflagration left out the identity of the opening act. The opening act would no doubt have preferred it remain that way.
By 12:37 AM, the NYT, via the blogging of Time film critic A.O. Scott, informs us that the guy taking the bullet is none other than Kirk Fox.
Very few of the theater’s 5,000 seats were empty at the beginning, and the noisy, well-lubricated crowd gave a hostile welcome to the opening act, the stand-up comedian Kirk Fox.
Fox is a funny guy. He’s currently being eviscerated as a decidedly unfunny guy. We would hope that he might have figured, in the back of his mind, when he was offered this gig in the first place, that this very public, very fast-spreading disembowelment was a very real possibility.
One particularly excruciating detail (which we’ve seen in two different places on the WWW) is that headliner Sheen popped out onstage in the middle of Fox’s set and implored the crowd to give his supporting act a chance. Ouch! It’s never a good situation when the head has to come out and try to soothe the audience. By that time, it’s lost. (See video below.)
It’s a nightmare.
Obviously Sheen knows nothing about standup or standup comics, because that’s the worst thing he could have done.
Was Fox booked for the entire 20-city tour? Will he stay on as the opener? (Who could blame the tour producers for throwing him overboard? In the past, an opener could survive such an ignominous debut, but in this day– with Facebook and Twitter and blogs– the stench of that first, disastrous outing will not easily be outrun.)
Who among us would have passed on the opportunity to do a few minutes up front and then bring on one of the most notorious, internet-created celebrities of the moment? Imagine the collateral press that would come your way merely by being a part of this traveling media circus? Oh, the stories!
Of course, when you sign on to such a strange mission, you gotta wonder if it will all turn to monstrous shit in a heartbeat. And, in this case, it did.
We’ve all been booed at one time or another. Or at least had a decidedly hostile reaction to our set. It’s disheartening. Demoralizing. But the check clears. But, once in a while, the debacle is so giant, so public that it inspires awe and pity.
In hindsight, we’re wondering: How could anyone expect a comedian (Fox) to appear in front an arena full of people who looked fondly on Sheen’s Youtube antics– who characterized them as “funny” or even “hysterical”– and somehow make them sit still and respond in the appropriate way? You’re called upon to quell the riot that shows up to see a drug-fueled, whore-mongering megalomaniac in a theater or other venue that is only suitable for standup under the most ideal circumstances… where’s the possible upside?
We comics are almost always optimistic. And our optimism perks up a few clicks when a paycheck with a lot of zeroes is waved around. We see those goose-eggs and we immediately begin to see our way clear to doing a killer set in front of even the most doomed situations. So firmly do we convince ourselves that it might go right… we are almost (almost!) stunned when it goes straight down the dumper with lightning speed.
And then we feel like total idiots. Because, deep down, a certain, rational part of our brain knew, with unerring certainty, that the whole thing was going to go exactly that way.
Perhaps Fox’s DVD sales will spike. Perhaps the “as long as they spell the name right” axiom will kick in.
He’ll always have the stories.
We threw it together in 48 hours. We wanted to have a get-together here in Vegas to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the upload of the first “issue” of SHECKYmagazine.com. Initially, we were merely going to piggyback our celebration on top of the regularly scheduled Fryer’s Club meeting at the Mad Onion over at Hooters Casino Hotel, but the April 1 Fryers was postponed due to the fact that Fryer’s organizer Geechy Guy was out of town (bringing a road version of his “Dirty Joke Show” to Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, IN) and due to the fact that the current relationship between the Fryer’s and host venue Mad Onion might be… “in review.” So, utilizing social networking tools and good, old-fashioned cellphones, we arranged to have a faux, temporary, stopgap Fryer’s-type gathering in the friendly confines of the comedy club that houses Joe Lowers‘ Las Vegas Comedy Show at the Alexis Park.
So last-minute were the arrangements that we really had no idea if two people or two-hundred would show up. We invited Fryer’s regulars and texted locals and invited folks who we knew to be performing in town.
Turnout was healthy! We were even honored by a brief visit from Carrot Top and his opening act Shayma Tash
In keeping with the Fryer’s tradition, we arranged for $100 worth of wings for our guests. How many wings does a Benjamin buy? (We had no idea either! We figured, if we went by Hooters math– they’re currently offering 25-cent wings– that would be 400! Or it would buy us one, giant, freakish wing! Or somewhere in between!) Turns out it gets you about 80 or so. With veggies and dip on the side. And one of them fancy, silver chafing dishes to hold the wings. All spread out on a low-rise wall in the back of the showroom– low enough even for Tanyalee Davis to be able to reach the food! (Her observation, not ours, lest anyone think we’re mocking the vertically challenged!) Co-host Joe Lowers sprang for another half-order, thereby keeping late arrivals happy.
We hope our little shindig helped to keep the momentum going on the Fryer’s meetings. It’s one of the grooviest things about living in Vegas… and such a Vegas thing! And, when you get down to it, a very SHECKY thing. We haven’t used “SHECKY” as an adjective in quite some time. But the Fryer’s epitomizes the tenets of the SHECKY manifesto (which was published in the first issue 12 years and a day ago and which is possibly lost in the ether!).
We’ll keep folks posted on the progress of the Fryer’s quest for a new home. And we urge all who visit Vegas to check their Facebook page (link above) and make sure you stop by when you’re in town. Every night of the week is special in Vegas, but this gathering makes Fridays even more so.
The Halves of the Staff were invited to co-host the second of three nights of showcases at the 4th Annual Garden Fresh Laugh Detroit Comedy Festival this year. We flew in Thursday, gigged on Friday, layed low on Saturday, attended the David Alan Grier on Sunday, attended Showcase Show One on Monday, then did our thing on Tuesday. We flew back to the desert on Wedneday.
The great thing about attending a fest that’s sponsored by a company that makes food is that they provide a lot of their product– the Hospitality Suite was bursting with tubs and tublets of hummus and salsa and dip and great, bulbous bags of nacho chips. All of it gluten-free, so the Female Half was able to nosh. (We’ve attended fests sponsored by beer brewers… they never let any of it go for free!)
Jeff MacKinnon went all Martha Stewart on us and combined a crock of cream cheese-based dip with some of the salsa– microwaving the concoction and slinging it out there, where it was devoured. Festival Big Cheese David Moroz endeared himself to the fest participants by providing plenty of free booze– Coors and Heinies and Labatts and Johnny Walker Black(out!) and Maker’s Mark– comics hate paying for alcohol! (Worry not, nanny types, all the imbibers were staying close by, so there was little chance of anyone wrapping a rental car around a pole!)
We’re never understand comedians who make the effort to be part of a festival but don’t show up afterward at the after-party! That’s where all the merriment and the bonding and the networking and the crazy stories are told (and often originate!), so why would anyone skip that part? And you get to see weird shit– like the spectacle of The Female Half getting into a barnburner of an argument with (Unnamed) over (Unspecified) resulting in The Female Half storming out! (We found out the next day that a handful of the showcasers immediately took up the argument and that it raged on until 4 AM or so!)
Monday night’s show was ably hosted by Auggie Smith. Our only personal experience with Smith was back a few years ago, we filled in a the last minute for Smith, who backed out of a gig at Wiley’s in Dayton. (We’re sure he had good reason!) We only mention it because we had to endure an entire weekend of disappointed faces– “Hey… You’re not Auggie Smith… Auggie’s not here? Hey… I thought Auggie Smith was headlining this weekend… you aren’t Auggie.” And on like that. It became a catchphrase around our house for a while. Showing up in a substitute role is a thankless task! Especially when you encounter disappointed Auggie Smith fans!
Packed house (as usual for the Comedy Castle), great and enthusiastic crowds (again, as usual) and a lot of the showcasers for the upcoming nights coming in early to watch their fellow fest attendees work the room.
The Hospitality Suite was located in an upper unit at the Residence Inn-like hotel and it opened each night shortly after the festivities ended at the Comedy Castle. And, in spite of the party poopers, it was well-attended each night. So well-attended, in fact, that the police showed up on Night Two when the three phone calls from the front desk failed miserably to quell the riotous conversation. (The spectacle of an entire roomful of comics trying to whisper is… comical. Each silent period might have only lasted about three minutes.) The men in blue couldn’t have been nicer (or so we’re told– we bugged out shortly before The Man arrived… so refined are our instincts when it comes to avoiding arrest)!
The hotel was quite foolish for not booking comics into the three units surrounding the Hospitality Suite. They could have avoided any unpleasantness– like five cops breaking up the bash and escorting the entire contingent down the stairs (while, allegedly, Auggie Smith sang “We Shall Overcome”). The following night they moved the whole affair into the lobby.
We hosted the Tuesday Showcase. We had originally planned to do “shtick.” A little something together, maybe, as we were co-hosting. But our time got cut down severely, as there was an extra comic– Forrest Shaw, whose flight was delayed out of Miami the previous day managed to eventually make it to town, so he was accommodated on our night and there was a rumor that local-boy-made-good John Heffron might show up and do some time. We have so rarely appeared onstage together, however, that we were reluctant to chance any risky business– we had the others to think about, after all. Wouldn’t it suck if you had a nice slot in a nice festival and the host(s) bombed?
Another packed house for our showcase show. The Halves ran a tight ship, and the show went like clockwork… except for one incident. Prior to the show, all comics were instructed to be back behind the giant, wooden rolling door that leads to the stage at least two acts before their own slot came up. And they all complied. Except for one, Scott White, who dreamed up a dramatic entrance– entering from the audience, stage-right and bounding onstage from the darkness.
Jeff MacKinnon recalls watching The Male Half on the monitor turning toward the giant door and seeing… no one… while simultaneously hearing The Female Half caterwauling from the hallway, “Where the FUCK IS HE?!” Such a breach of protocol is a no-no. It is a giant Fest No-No! We were not happy.
That evening’s schmoozing took place in the lobby dining room, amid the trappings of the free continental breakfast, under the glare of an (inexplicably) unhappy hotel manager. No complaints from other guests were fielded and no law enforcement was necessary, however.
The next night, as we were landing at McCarran, Karen Rontowski was hosting the third and final Showcase. We hear that some of the lucky showcase acts from the previous three nights had the privilege of opening for Rontowski this weekend.
It’s a swell festival to aspire to. If for no other reason than the folks who head it up– David Moroz of Aspen Talent and Mark Ridley, proprietor of the Comedy Castle– are two of the most even-tempered and placid people in the business. While no festival is stress-free, the level of stress is guaranteed to be at a minimum with those two gentlemen at the helm. And there was a smattering of industry there– Jeff Singer added a third seminar to his scheduled two. And festival iron man Rich Miller, among others, was also in attendance.
It’s a good, fun festival with– BONUS– healthy, rabid crowds! So the comics get to showcase, hang with their colleagues and do their thing on the stage of one of the top five or ten clubs on the continent. May it live long and prosper.
We appeared on Detroit television this morning. On the local Fox affiliate. Fox 2. Our mission: Promote the upcoming Garden Fresh Detroit Laughs Comedy Festival. We did so, we hope. We had a swell time on the Big Brown Couch and we noticed that the cameras are all controlled by robots! (It’s a sad commentary on our careers that we’ve only now noticed a ten-year trend in big-market TV production. Apparently, no one is spooked by cameras skittering about, without human guidance.)
We remembered the requisite information and we slept for most of our downtime between the TV appearance and the show.
We were exiting the Bob Evans restaurant when we heard one patron, “Oh… They were on TV this morning!”
David Alan Grier kicked ass. We were too stupid or too polite or too jaded to snap a photo with him. It is, after all, his triumphant return to his hometown. The last we saw DAG he was communing with an elderly lady wearing a fur (real fur!) coat. The last thing we want to do is in insinuate ourselves between a man an his elderly relative/acquaintance wearing a real fur coat! We don’t do that TMZ thing. Especially when it comes to old folks.
Many of the comics from the upcoming three days of showcases are filtering into the metro area to appear on the shows. We’ll be headlining/hosting Tuesday night. There will be 30 comics over three nights showcasing. We will post pics. Stay tuned.
From the FutonCritic.com:
LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) — NBC has passed on another summer cycle of its veteran reality series “Last Comic Standing,” a network spokesperson has confirmed to the site exclusively.
Craig Robinson hosted the franchise’s most recent edition, which wrapped on August 9 with a season low 3.91 million viewers and a 1.5 rating among adults 18-49.
This is a negative development. The show was good for comedy, at least the last season was. (And we say that not merely because we were on it! The five finalists who spread the cheer throughout ComedyLand on the monster LCS tour were solid, diverse, professional and no doubt a gateway for many thousands to subsequently sample comedy in local comedy clubs.)
For the “haters” who will no doubt crawl out of the woodwork and say that the show’s cancellation is long overdue, we counter that they simply don’t know what they’re talking about. Almost any time standup comedy is presented in a sane manner on primetime network television, it’s a good thing for standup comedy.
And those numbers cited above don’t tell the whole story– at its peak in Season 7, the show was pulling in 7 million viewers (and plenty more via Hulu.com and other viewings). We think NBC will relent and bring the show back yet again. It’s inexpensive to produce, it gets decent numbers in the summer doldrums and, who knows, one of these seasons, they might actually “discover” a comedy star who can anchor some sort of NBC series– A sitcom? A game show? A reality series? Who knows?
We’d start a letter-writing campaign, but we don’t have enough faith in our fellow comics that they’d actually spearhead such a campaign. Of course, fans would love to see the show return, but the comics would have to be the engine for such a movement. And we’re not convinced that they’ve seen the light as far as the clear benefit that the return of LCS would bring.
It’s the best green room in the business. The Female Half has been saying for years that every green room should have a coffee machine. (Have you ever noticed the look on the face of most comedy club waitresses when you ask for a cup of coffee? If you ask for cream it’s as if you’d punched her in the baby-maker– we’re using the alt-comedy lingo, heavy on the irony… for the kids.)
Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the Trop has one of those Keurig machines that makes one cup at a time. And a glass-doored fridge bursting with Snapple and cold water and Gatorade and Red Bull and Coronas and Bud Lites. And a giant hi-def screen that lets the comics monitor the show. And an oversized coffee table with jars filled with candy and snacks. (In the venue’s previous life, the room was used for… storage. And the comics were forced to hang in a tiny room just off the stage.)
One comedy club owner once referred to a green room as “a breeding ground for egos.” Needless to say, his club didn’t have one at the time. Nor, we assume, did the comedians he hired have any egos. Nor, we assume, did they have any self-respect.
The comics in the green room this past week at Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club at the Trop have plenty of self-esteem. The Female Half, Greg Vaccariello and Bob Zany were there from Monday to Sunday. Eva Longoria even stopped by! So huge is the green room (and so tiny is she) you could fit a thousand Eva Longoria’s in there!
It was quite a pleasure to hang out with any after all these years– we worked with him many years ago in Atlanta and he agreed to be the first ever SHECKYmagazine.com main interview. His words were featured in the premiere issue of the mag, way back on April 1, 1999. We almost forgot to mention Zany’s documentary, “Close But No Cigar.” He gave us a copy of the as-yet-unreleased film and we watched it the other day. It is (or will be!) mandatory viewing for anyone in the business, no matter what level of experience you have. It’s alternately inspiring, fascinating and frustrating. It moves like a shot and it’s an insightful look into one man’s absolutely singular career in standup comedy. We’ll keep you posted when it’s available to the general public. It’ll be shown at the Los Angeles Film+Music Weekend.
AFLAC (American Family Life Insurance Company of Columbus), employs more than 8 thousand people. They insure more than 60 million people worldwide. They have assets of 84 billion dollars (which is pretty much what an insurance company has to have, if they are to make good on their promises). They happen to be the second largest insurer overall in Japan and the largest life insurer in that country. So… they’re in a bit of hot water right about now because the worst has happened.
According to the company’s Wikipedia entry:
The Aflac Duck character has now starred in more than 30 commercials. The Aflac Duck is enshrined on Madison Avenue’s Walk of Fame as one of America’s Favorite Advertising Icons.
Gilbert Gottfried is a very funny comedian who has, for the past decade, been the voice of the duck that has come to symbolize the company in its television and radio commercials.
Gottfried tweeted a series of crude jokes about the Sendai earthquake and ensuing tsunami. AFLAC canned him for doing so.
The tsunami of stupidity that is sweeping over the internet– on Facebook and on Twitter and elsewhere– is overwhelming.
No… this is not a free speech issue.
Please do not waste your time analyzing the jokes or trying to decide whether or not they’re in good taste or if they’re funny.
All of that is irrelevant.
Gottfried was the voice of a major corporation for a decade (that’s one-third of his professional career) and, when that major corporation encountered a major catastrophe (a good chunk of its clients dead, swept out to sea, their homes destroyed in an historic natural disaster), he made jokes about it.
And he got canned.
Did he know that his employer was the second largest insurer overall in Japan and that country’s largest life insurer? Did he know that premiums from Japan accounted for 75 per cent of AFLAC’s revenue? Again, it’s irrelevant. (If he wasn’t aware of it and he made the jokes, it’s kinda like joking that the boss’s wife is a whore… and not knowing that she’s standing behind you in the elevator. You get canned and you accept your fate. If he was aware of that fact and he made the jokes anyway, well… perhaps he wanted to get fired.)
He was heavily associated with the company. At first, it seemed only insiders knew that the duck was voiced by Gottfried. Eventually, however, Gottfried (and AFLAC) were open about the association between the two– Google his name and hit “Images,” and several pics will come up with Gottfried clutching a white duck. Both parties benefited from the association.
And now they don’t.
FOS Murv Seymour called to let us know that James Vernon passed away this past weekend of a heart attack. According to his Facebook page, Vernon was born June 12, 1951. (There are multiple comments on Vernon’s wall and that would be the place to consult for funeral services, donations, etc.)
From a March 2007 article:
James Vernon’s past is nothing to laugh at. The 55-year-old Clearwater resident battled heroin addiction for 18 years, spent two years homeless, went to prison twice and once tried to kill himself on a Houston street corner. And that was before he received second- and third-degree burns in a freak gas station accident. But after sobering up and becoming a comedian, Vernon has been able to squeeze jokes (and laughs) from his turbulent former life. He headlines a benefit show on March 24 at Coconuts Comedy Club in Clearwater.
And from his bio on RecoveryComedy.com:
In July 1979 the Comedy Workshop opened its doors as Houston Texas’ premiere comedy club. It was the birthplace for some of the most well known names in comedy, both past and present: Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison, Ron Schock, Fred Greenlee, and Brett Butler, just to name a few. Before closing its doors in January 1990 it produced yet another talent who is rapidly following in the footsteps of his predecessors.
James Vernon has experienced life the way most only read about. From his three years in the Marine Corps to his prison terms, sixteen year drug addiction to catching fire and receiving third degree burns over 35% percent of his body. James found humor in all of life’s experiences. His intellect and street suave lend to James’ unique outlook on current events. James has the uncanny ability to present controversial issues with a flair for walking that fine line between dangerously dirty and brilliantly funny without offending even the most prudent of audiences. His enlightening view of reality allows us a different perspective of life.
Gallagher collapsed during a performance at a gig in Rochester, Minnesota. He was conscious when they carted him away. Someone (not a doctor) speculated that he had a stroke. His manager says Gallagher is in “stable condition.”
We can’t help but think about all the classless geeks who, upon hearing of the death of Mike DeStefano, wished that it could have been some other comedian for whom they have zero fondness. Be careful what you wish for, geeks!
Roy Wood, Jr., wrote a lengthy remembrance of friend Mike DeStefano.
I no longer use the term ‘friend’ lightly. I’ve learned over the past couple of years just how few friends I really have. The older you get you’re more likely to take people OFF that list rather than ADDING people to that list.
Outside of the guys you start comedy with, it’s a rarity to pick up new friends along the way. The solitary nature of what we do keeps us from forming real bonds with people. The friends you had before you started comedy become cherished commodities.
Mike Destefano (Mike D) and I met briefly during auditions for ‘Last Comic Standing’ in New York. The convo didn’t go much deeper than a handshake and the usual chit chat about our hometown comedy clubs. That was the last I saw of him for a couple of weeks because of the way they separated the semi-finalists. It wasn’t until we made the Final 10 that I got to interact with him for the first time.
Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.